THE BLOG

Chelsea Manning's Transmorality

08/26/2013 12:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 26, 2013

I am thinking today about Chelsea Manning and the predicament of knowing with body and mind the danger of essentialist fictions. I don't know with my own body what it is like to be trapped in the pretend clear-cut binary of gender disparity. I do understand cognitively. Like many of us, culture has told me that my "leanings" are all cool. My father may have appreciated my kick-butt toughness, and sometimes my language is a tad raw for a woman who only reached 5 feet no inches (no inches!) and that shocks people, but I am attracted sexually to men. Even if, on some occasions, I step outside of the female codes, all the films of youth, all of the habits and rituals prescribed for us as vital and moral bodies, I sort of fit. But Chelsea did not.

It is so fitting (yes, fitting, hear this word large!) that those on social and other mock-legitimized media delve into the pop psychology of her acts and many have done since the "big reveal" the Today Show scored:

This is the female in her who is not able to tolerate the horrors of war.

She was already angry at the world of men and so she infiltrated.

What about her omission of her father from her life? Was that a part of her motivation? The whole of her motivation?

I am more concerned with what she did and how powerfully important for us all that she was and is still willing to show us what we do not see because we mean not to.

She made absolutely clear that the U.S. actions in Iraq (separate from the illegal, immoral entry into that nation) were the acts of thugs, distinct from the uniforms, distinct from the fittings of "keeping the US.. and its interests safe" that military by right must provide. The uniforms of the military did not fit that situation in Abu Ghraib and she revealed that to us all. And, by the way, the Today Show and their ilk cared little about that before the big reveal.

How could Chelsea Manning not have seen the immoral acts and transgressions first and foremost and secondly how could she have failed to act upon the fictions she witnessed that are the outer limits of immorality? Living with the power of fictions to inflict pain, was she not in the right place and the key moment? Why don't we read it that way?

I would imagine that she tried wearing many uniforms to mask the ways in which she could not perform what culture requires. We all do this for various reasons in just as varied ways. Her military uniform being only one of the ways she attempted to march to the tune of correctness.

But I am thinking it is important to speak to her sacrifice: that she had to hide her sexuality for all the time she awaited judgment and I am wondering (no, I am knowing) how that must have felt. With time to ponder, it must have felt singularly wrong and a part of what she must tell.

More important for me to remember: her transsexual nature is not as relevant as her transmoral nature: Murder is wrong, and murder orchestrated, condoned, fitted to moral by the state is worse. If the former meant she was perfectly situated to "leak", then the latter is, too, a function of a higher nature than gender.

She deserves, for her acts (yes, plural) of courage, to live in peace.

She deserves honor. She took it for herself. We are, all of us roaming out here, imprisoned.